Start Smart

The secret to a good cook is pretty basic. Look to their kitchen for essential tools and you will discover why food preparation comes as naturally as breathing. Start Smart. For instance, a chef’s knife makes short work for cutting and chopping. Wooden spoons are perfect for stirring and mixing, plus they look great in a counter caddy. My son recently introduced me to the handy-dandy fat separator for making unbelievable lump-free gravy. How did I not know of this? It’s pure genius! I could go on and on about food processors, dutch ovens, spiralizers, and rice cookers, but you get the idea. Recently I froze some Farmers Market corn by removing the kernels from the cob with my corn peeler. (There really is such a thing.) Now you know…anyone can be a gourmet chef…like me. lol. Some of my posts have been favored by the “Food Network” on Twitter (Snapshotsincursive @DornaGail) as well as Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa, on Instagram (gail _dorna). You can even find me on Pinterest at Gail Dorna. I’d love to connect with you there as well. I also met Chef Michelle Tribble of Hell’s Kitchen reality cooking show. Fun times. Experience different flavors and textures one bite at a time. Catch a glimpse of “Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Start Smart.” This remarkable journey of the palate is unique because it gives me a few moments with you. Thanks very much to all of my guests and followers on http://snapshotsincursive.com for the uplifting support, award nominations, and moving words of encouragement. As of this writing, WordPress has acknowledged that I’m on a 1641-day streak. Let’s keep it going!

Fab Foodstuff

In a world of instant gratification, it may be tough to come up with new ideas for meals in a flash, let alone prepare them at home before someone in the house hits “pizza” on the speed dial. Truth is, there’s a world of fabulous options available. Let me help you, since I think about meal-planning practically all the time. If you open your mind to flavorful combinations, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Time flies on this journey of the palate. Thanks very much to all my followers on the website http://snapshotsincursive.com for the uplifting support, award nominations, and moving words of encouragement. Follow me on Facebook at Gail Dorna, on Instagram @gail_dorna and Twitter @ Snapshotsincursive. What’s cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? It’s as simple as A-B-C. One of my passions is being at home in my own country kitchen. No matter how much we travel, I relish the thought of returning there to create something delicious. I adore time-honored traditions using tried-and-true recipes. Yet, I often never think twice about tweaking old favorites or modifying others to suit the inner craving of the moment. The recipes you will find here in the next several weeks can be prepared very easily. Feel free to contact me with questions. Now take a deep breath, inhale the aromas, and join me on a tasteful journey entitled, “EATING MY WAY THROUGH THE ALPHABET: FAB FOODSTUFF!”

Yellow Squash Bolognese

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Yellow Squash Bolognese! I’m at it again. The Spiralizer has become my new best friend. This time the star attraction is yellow squash noodles in place of pasta. But first, prepare the Bolognese sauce. It not only takes a bit longer, but it will turn your kitchen into an aromatic sensation. The rich Italian Bolognese sauce is a time-honored tradition that can take up to four hours to duplicate. This version, however, requires less than an hour from start to finish. I knew you would appreciate that fact.

YELLOW SQUASH BOLOGNESE

Ingredients for Bolognese Sauce:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 Vidalia onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 carrot, diced

4 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 pound ground Sweet Italian sausage

1 teaspoon fennel seed

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

8 basil leaves, chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions:

In an iron skillet over medium heat, combine olive oil, Vidalia onion, and minced garlic. Add celery, carrot, and mushrooms. Sauté 5 minutes. Increase heat and add ground Italian sausage, fennel, marjoram, and oregano. Cook until meat is no longer pink and appears crumbled, approximately 10 minutes. Lower heat and add tomatoes, parsley, basil, sea salt, and pepper. Cook until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 30 minutes.

Ingredients for Noodles:

1-2 yellow squash

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions:

Spiralize the yellow squash into noodles. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil. Add yellow squash noodles; toss gently. Sauté no longer than two minutes. The noodles will turn soft, but not translucent. Serve with Bolognese sauce garnished with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

Tomato Feta Egg Au Gratin

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Tomato Feta Egg Au Gratin! I’m all for trying new things, so when I saw this recipe featured at Williams-Sonoma, I knew it had to be good. The fact that I already had all the ingredients on hand was sheer bliss. I confess, I may have tweaked the original by adding a buttery crouton topping, but that’s just me. You may do without. As everything warms together in the oven, the aroma arising is staggering. How much longer? There’s something about serving individual casseroles that make a dish eloquent, wouldn’t you agree?

TOMATO FETA EGG AU GRATIN

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 Vidalia onion, chopped

1 can (28 ounces) whole plum tomatoes and juice

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon oregano

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/3 cup light cream

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

4-8 eggs

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 slices bread, torn into bite size pieces

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. In a sauté pan over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add onion and sauté until lightly browned, 6-8 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, marjoram, and oregano; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes start to break down, about 10 minutes. Stir in mustard, red pepper flakes, and light cream. Season with sea salt and pepper. Divide tomato mixture evenly among 4 small au gratin dishes. Carefully crack 1 or 2 eggs into each cocotte and use a spoon to gently swirl egg white into tomato mixture, without breaking yolk. Season yolks lightly with salt and pepper. Toss the bread crumbs in the melted butter until completely absorbed. Divide among the 4 casseroles. Bake until egg is cooked to your liking, 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with feta cheese and parsley. Serve.

Leeks and Ham Gnocchi

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Leeks and Ham Gnocchi! Leeks are nothing more than giant green onions. They add a mild onion-like taste to any dish and seem to be more flavorful when cooked. By combining them with gnocchi and ham, the leeks turn these little dumplings into a gourmet Mac ‘n Cheese alternative that is pleasing to the palate. The biggest challenge lies in preparing leeks for eating. After all, like an onion or shallot, they have a small bulb and a long stalk of green tightly-wrapped leaves. First I trimmed the tops and cut off the roots. Then I found that when filling the sink with water and submerging them, what little dirt that collected near the leaves fell to the bottom. Once rinsed, they were easy to slice and fun to separate the rings. Use what you need and freeze the rest for soups, casseroles, or other dishes later on. Isn’t it fun to try new things?

LEEKS AND HAM GNOCCHI

Ingredients:

1 leek, sliced into rings

1 cup chopped ham

1 16-ounce package gnocchi

8 ounces Havarti cheese, shredded

1 1/4 cups light cream

3 tablespoons flour

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 slices Hawaiian bread, torn

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Fresh chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to. 350°. Grease lightly 3 individual casserole dishes. In a medium bowl, combine ham, gnocchi, and Havarti cheese. Divide evenly between casseroles. Whisk together light cream, flour, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and black pepper until smooth and flour is dissolved. Pour over gnocchi, dividing equally. In a bowl, place bread and leeks. Pour melted butter over all to coat. Gently toss. Sprinkle over gnocchi casseroles. Bake 35 minutes until golden and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh chives. Serve warm.

Beef and Noodles

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Beef and Noodles! I decided to take the day off from cooking so I tag-teamed with Le Creuset. All the ingredients went into the enameled cast iron French oven pretty much all day. This reliable way of slow-cooking gave me the opportunity to spend time ironing tea towels and perusing my towering stack of current magazines. As the day wound down, the mouth-watering aromas filled the air and before I knew it, dinner was ready. The roast had basted in its own juices to blend with the herbs, wine, and vegetables for delicious results. Now leftover recipes will be a breeze. Well done!

BEEF AND NOODLES

Ingredients:

3 pound sirloin tip roast, frozen

1 can beef consommé

1/2 cup ginger beer

1 tablespoon Hawaiian Rub*

8 ounces homestyle noodles

1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup red wine

1/4 cup cornstarch

Parsley sprigs

Instructions:

Place frozen sirloin roast in a Dutch oven with a lid. Add the can of beef consommé and ginger beer. Sprinkle Hawaiian Rub over roast. Cover. Put in oven and set the temperature to 225°. After six hours, add noodles and mushrooms. Bake covered 45 minutes longer. Remove pan from oven and ladle the roast drippings into a saucepan. It should be about 2 cups of liquid. Bring to a boil. Mix the red wine and cornstarch, stirring until smooth. Slowly stir into the roast drippings, stirring occasionally to prevent lumps. As gravy thickens, reduce heat to simmer. If necessary add water if it becomes too thick. Remove beef to a platter and shred, as needed. Return shredded beef to the noodle/mushroom mixture. Cover with gravy. Transfer to serving portions. Garnish each dish with parsley sprig.

* Hawaiian Rub is available from the Salty Wahine Gourmet Hawaiian Sea Salts company. I get no recompense for mentioning this product in my recipe.

Eat More

Stop feeling guilty about fueling your body! Food fulfills many basic needs: nutrition, health, social connections…to name just a few. Think about it. What does food mean to you? I like fresh ingredients, garden herbs, rich chocolate, and French butter. But I’m in good company. Some of my recent posts have been favored by the “Food Network” on Twitter (Gail Dorna @DornaGail) as well as Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa, on Instagram (gail _dorna). I’d love to see you there as well. Come along with me for “Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Eat More!” This remarkable journey of the palate is special because it gives me a few moments with you. Thanks very much to all of my guests and followers on http://snapshotsincursive.com for the uplifting support, award nominations, and moving words of encouragement. What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? It’s as simple as reciting your A-B-Cs. One of my passions is being at home in my own country kitchen. I love to cook, and my husband loves that I do it often. Now more than ever, since I am retired, I relish the thought of creating something delicious from scratch. I adore time-honored traditions using tried-and-true recipes. Yet, I often never think twice about tweaking old favorites or modifying others to suit the inner craving of the moment. Most of the recipes serve 2-4 people, but can be altered in any direction. The leftovers are golden morsels to be eaten later or shared with others. And I love to share. To me, seeing a smile in gratitude is thanks enough. The recipes you find here in the next several weeks can be prepared very easily. Feel free to contact me with questions or comments. Now take a deep breath, inhale the aromas, and join me on a tasteful journey entitled, “EATING MY WAY THROUGH THE ALPHABET: EAT MORE!”

X-Citing Everyday Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: X-citing Everyday Salad! Whoever said salads are ho-hum hasn’t raided the refrigerator for a weeknight dinner, especially on a rainy day. Just use your imagination. After all, you only buy produce that you really like, right? I’m a fan of herbed olive oil and tomatoes, so by turning that into a dressing it satisfies my quest for the perfect Italian vinaigrette. Look again at the photo. See the leafy greens? Start there and build the layers. By the time you finish adding what you like (substituting stuff like green olives for black), you have a meal-in-a-bowl that rivals your neighborhood eatery. Enough talking, now let’s get moving.

X-CITING EVERYDAY SALAD

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon Italian cheese, finely shredded

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

2 cups mixed greens, gently torn

1/2 cup broccoli florets

10-12 pepperoni slices

1/3 cup green olives, sliced

Cracked black pepper

Instructions:

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, oregano, basil, marjoram, garlic powder, and sea salt. Stir well. Add balsamic vinegar and Italian cheese. Fold in cherry tomatoes to coat. In a large bowl, layer mixed greens, broccoli florets, pepperoni slices, and green olives. Drizzle with tomato herbed vinaigrette. Gently toss before serving. Garnish with cracked black pepper.

Unstuffed Green Pepper Bake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Unstuffed Green Pepper Bake! If you love the taste of stuffed green peppers, but really hate the extra steps of preparation, look no further. This “unstuffed” version can be served in individual casserole dishes or a family-style pan, thus eliminating the need for hollowed-out green peppers. Still yummy, still Spanish-flavor, still way back generational goodness like your grandma used to make. Be good to yourself when the week gets crazy busy. Make a batch of “unstuffed” green peppers and sit back with a glass of wine while the oven does all the work. You’re worth it.

UNSTUFFED GREEN PEPPER BAKE

Ingredients:

2 green peppers, coarsely chopped

24-ounce jar traditional pasta sauce

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon basil

2 cups rotisserie chicken or turkey, shredded

1 cup cooked brown rice

1 1/2 cups Italian cheese blend, shredded

2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook chopped green peppers in the microwave-safe dish for 2 minutes on High setting. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine pasta sauce, garlic powder, oregano, and basil. Mix well. Fold in shredded meat, brown rice, and 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Add green peppers. Transfer filling into prepared casserole dish(es). Top with remaining cheese. In a small bowl coat panko crumbs with olive oil. Mix well. Spoon crumbs over cheese. Baked 25 minutes or until heated through.